What if we spent only half our time and energy in pursuit of what we wanted, and the other half helping others? What if we truly kept the second commandment and loved our neighbor as ourself? How would our world look different?
As I continue to evaluate and challenge my own views of the world built on my experiences, perceptions, and biases, I keep coming back to these questions. As I read and reflect on books like The New Jim Crow and bear witness to people’s lived stories of inequity and oppression, I keep coming back to these questions.
What is really running our lives and influencing our decisions? What do we hold as a culture to be most valuable? Most honorable? Is it concern for our neighbors or concern for ourselves? Are we actively loving others or actively protecting ourselves? Are we building communities or empires?
The commentary surrounding the pandemic and recent racial injustices tell me we have lost our way and lost sight of the second commandment. We don’t understand the true nature of ourselves or of others. Instead of loving and helping our neighbors, honoring their individuality and opinions, and respecting their choices and perspectives, we are spreading hurt and hate.
We keep ourselves distracted and busy so we don’t feel guilty about injustices that don’t affect us directly or seem too big to fix, like the reality that our judicial system, our economic system, our school systems, and our culture at large do not honor humanity. As long as we take care of our own, we convince ourselves that’s enough. We can do better. We have to do better, because we cannot continue down this path of divisiveness, inequity, and violence.
We can make change by starting with ourselves…with our own mindset, attitude, and behavior. I’m not asking that we do more, but that we shift our energy. Let’s move from closed and protective to open and loving. Here are a few of the shifts I’m committed to making, will you join me?
- Bring an open mind and open heart
We come into conversations with set objectives and perspectives. This often means the loudest and most forceful get their way regardless of the quality of their ideas. I know because I am the one that often pushes for my way. This is how definitive ideals are formed and extreme perspectives become a supported reality.How can we show up ready to take a stand and share our ideas, and also stay open to the stances and ideas of others? We can start our day in a posture of preparation and positivity. We can use our ears more than our mouths. We can invite opposing and alternative views. We can use questions and phrases like “help me understand” or “tell me more” to work toward understanding.
- Create safe, inclusive spaces
Our natural instinct in any given situation is to protect ourselves. We armor up and shut others down or out. We get triggered and our lack of self-awareness can hurt others. Our past experiences create unconscious biases and assumptions that prevent us from creating a safe, inclusive environment.How can we create safer, more inclusive spaces? We can understand ourselves better: our motivations, what drives our decision making, our biases. We can respond differently to mistakes and instead of using these opportunities to blame or shame, we can employ empathy and encourage learning. We can set expectations for positive behavior and be clear about how we handle negative, unproductive behavior.
- Focus on commonality and understanding
We are encouraged to focus on what makes us special and unique. If you’re anything like me, over time I started to think the way I lived and did things was the right way, and the choices and ways of others was wrong. This perspective kept me focused on differences, prevented me from understanding the views and experiences of others, and didn’t allow for me to work with others toward mutual understanding and agreement.How can we start every conversation in active pursuit of what we have in common? We can ask better questions. We can get to know people more. We can stay curious, seek understanding, and find at least one point of commonality before we make conclusions or decisions.
- Shift what you recognize and reward
In our culture we celebrate power, money, and influence. We recognize and hold up professional athletes, actors, and politicians even when they are morally bankrupt. We reward those who make piles of cash and build empires even when they steamroll others and do illegal things to make it happen.How could we recognize and reward people on more than just power, money, and influence? We can shift our conversations and questions from “what do you want to do” to “who do you want to be.” We can hire, train, and reward based on values and virtue. We can promote, celebrate, and write about those who are serving, giving, loving, and creating positive change. We can lead by example by sticking to our own core values and virtues in all we do.
- Seek the truth and the highest good
There is so much noise, so many opinions floating around. It’s become very hard to find the truth. Our desire for comfort drives us to find answers that validate our own perceptions and thinking which can actually take us further from truth. It’s hard to make decisions because it’s hard to find the right information from which to make them. We get tired and often make decisions without thinking about the impact of others or the down line effects.How can we get closer to the truth, and to decisions that result in the highest good? We can use our intuition alongside data and research and learn to trust our gut again. We can learn and teach a thoughtful process for discernment that encourages critical thinking and seeing multiple sides. We can give deep work and think time the credibility they deserve as a productive part of living and leading, and make space in our day for them. We can take time each day to reflect and learn, then share those lessons with others.
These shifts can take us far. They require that we have the strength to hold space for others which comes from understanding and loving ourselves enough to be able to do that for others. Do your work first to help yourself, so you can help others. If we each focus on becoming our best self, these problems will resolve themselves. We will get back to our true nature which is to love and honor all of humanity.
This excerpt from Brother Dave in The Road Back to You says it best:
“Most folks assume they understand who they are when they don’t. They don’t question the lens through which they see the world – where it came from, how it shaped their lives, or even if the vision of reality it gives them is distorted or true. Even more troubling, most people aren’t aware of how things that helped them survive as kids are now holding them back as adults. They are asleep.”
“What we don’t know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others. As long as we stay in the dark about how we are the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we’re prisoners of our history. We’ll continue going through life on autopilot doing the things that hurt and confuse ourselves and everyone around us. Eventually we become so accustomed to making the same mistakes over and over in our lives that they lull us to sleep. We need to wake up.”